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St. Tammany Humane Society Helps Animals And Their Owners

Tegan Wendland

Stray animals are a big problem all over Louisiana, including on the Northshore. Once a year the St. Tammany Parish Humane Society organizes with other local shelters to provide a huge low-cost vaccination clinic and adoption event called Woofstock.

Go here for more information on the 2016 event - 

Norman Billiot of Lacombe stood in a long line that stretched far down the block outside a big building at Pelican Park in Mandeville.

He patiently struggled with two rowdy young pit-bulls on this rainy morning: a red pitbull he rescued named Roco, and a black lab named Ebony. The dogs were not patient about standing in line, but Billiot said it was one of his only chances to get them all of the vaccinations they needed, like heartworm and rabies, for a reasonable price. It cost about $60 instead of $150.

He has experienced the problem with stray pets firsthand — and has rescued more than one. “Actually I had intentions of finding them homes but they just grew on me and my wife... I have six total, but I can only bring three at a time because it’s just too much to bring six,” explained Billiot. “They’re family, they’re like kids.”

Christine Hoad has volunteered with the humane society for five years. It’s her love of animals that compels her, she said.This event, now in its 26th year, plays an important role.

Credit Tegan Wendland / WWNO
A family visits with a dog up for adoption at the St. Tammany Parish Humane Society's annual Woofstock event outside Mandeville.

“They’re showing that they’re responsible pet owners and that they really love their animals to do this, Hoad said." People started lining up at 8 o’clock this morning and the doors don’t open until 10. Those are people who know and they come every year because it gets bigger and bigger and they hope that they don’t run out of anything — the heartworm or the vaccinations — because it’s all donated.”

The St. Tammany Parish Humane Society was started back in 1953 by Northshore resident Holly Fredrick Reynolds in memory of her cocker spaniel, Yankee Doodle Dandy. Today it is Louisiana’s largest no-kill shelter, though there are other Northshore groups that do choose to euthanize animals they can’t find homes for.

Interim Executive Director Michelle Newfield said they were able to treat about 600 dogs in all through the low cost clinic, and ended up finding homes for about 100 animals, but it’s not enough to solve the problem.

“What we have found is that the majority of small dogs get homes, they don’t get euthanized, it’s the larger animals — the mixed breeds and the pitbulls and pitbull mixes — that are the ones that ultimately end up getting euthanized because there’s an overpopulation of those,” she said.

St. Tammany Parish Animal Control Officer Supervisor Tess Boudreau agreed. “Pit-bulls are very popular on the Northshore, I see it a lot. That’s one of our high numbers in the shelter... and it’s unfortunate because people like the breed but they don’t realize that it’s overpopulated the parish,” she said.

Boudreau said they would prefer to not have to euthanize any animals, but the problem is just too big. One family helped, picking out their new pet.

Credit Paula Fosters / St. Tammany Parish Humane Society
St. Tammany Parish Humane Society
Keri Deemer, Mike Williams and their children adopted Mamma, a five year old gray pit-bull. The St. Tammany Parish Humane Society takes official photos of every adopted pet and their new family during the mass adoption event. The Deemer-Williams family were number 58 of 100.

Keri Deemer said, “We actually came here looking for a poodle but we picked out a pit-bull. But they’re amazing dogs. So we’re happy, we think it’ll work out well with our family.” Deemer and her family of six — with one on the way — adopted Mamma, a five-year-old, 120 pound grey pit bull.

Hoad said it’s easier for people to have lots of animals in rural areas, and the more they have, the more expensive it becomes to spay and neuter. “In the city it’s harder to have pets than when you live out on the Northshore,” said Hoad.

There are also problems with illegal breeders and dog fighting rings. But overall, the biggest problem is simply volume. Newfield explained, “People just don’t think to spay and neuter, they think that, ‘oh I can have one litter, and that’s okay,’ and then the next thing they’re having another one — and it kind of overpowers them. Then animal control is called in, and they need to get rid of them because they just can’t afford it.”

One of the programs the humane society offered this year a special price to spay and neuter pit bulls — $15. Newfield said all 100 spots were quickly taken and the humane society is having a hard time keeping up with the need. They also offer free dog and cat food on certain days of the month for people who cannot afford it. But the families taking home dogs are all smiles, feeling ready to take on the care of a new pet.

Learn more at

Northshore Focus made possible with support from the Northshore Community Foundation.

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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